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You might spend years trying to make sure your teenager has the best education possible. Spending hours in books, studying, and taking part in extracurricular activities are all good things for any well-rounded teenager. There’s a big difference between being “book smart” and “street smart,” however. As your teenager transitions into young adulthood, it’s important that they’re well-educated in both.
There are some skills that simply can’t be learned from a book and need to be picked up through life experiences. Some of these important skills your teen will need include the following:
- Negotiation skills
- Emotional intelligence
Maybe your teen knows how to drive a car, but do they know what to do if they get into an accident? Maybe they’ve applied to a few colleges, but are they prepared to move away from home? Are they able to self-regulate their emotions as they go through changes in their lives?
According to a national survey by Youth Truth, 55% of students don’t feel ready for college or a career. What can you do as a parent to help prepare your teen and give them the street smarts they need to succeed?
Help Them to Manage Mental Health
In 2010, 1 in 5 teens in the U.S. struggled with some type of mental health disorder. Teenagers have to handle a lot at once including new relationships, friendships, studies, activities, and preparing for life after graduation.
Teaching your teens to self-regulate their emotions can be an important skill that they take with them for the rest of their lives. Self-regulation starts with being able to identify your own emotions. When your teen is frustrated or angry, talk to them about how they’re feeling so they can get to the root cause. When they understand what causes certain emotions within them, they can learn to handle them in a more positive way.
Self-regulation leads to self-awareness. Your teenager will have a better understanding of what triggers them so they can combat negative emotions and negative self-talk with reality. If your teenager is really struggling with something like depression or anxiety, it’s often worth it to encourage counseling or therapy. Most of the time, getting to the underlying cause of a mental health condition is the first step to a positive solution, but your teen may need a little extra help getting there.
Don’t Ignore the “Tough Stuff”
No parent wants to think about their teenager getting into a car accident, but unfortunately, it happens. In fact, car accidents are the leading cause of death for people ages 15-20. You already know how important it is to teach your teen the right driving skills and to avoid driving distracted. It is also important for them to know if they do get into an accident, what to do in the aftermath. Talk to them about a “car accident checklist” and make sure they know to follow it if an accident does occur. Their checklist should include the following things:
- Not admitting fault at the scene of the accident
- Checking themselves for injuries
- Contacting the police right away
- Evaluating the accident
- Notifying the insurance company
- Requesting a copy of the car accident report from law enforcement
Of course, you can help your teenager with some of these things after the fact, but the more they know about how to handle an accident in the heat of the moment, the calmer they will be if it ever actually happens.
Prepare Them to Leave the Nest
One of the most important life skills your teen will need to learn is how to prepare themselves for living on their own, whether they’re going to college or moving out for the first time. There are dozens of life skills you should be ready to teach your teenager, including everything from basic home management skills like unclogging a bathtub to job application skills like building a resume or dressing for an interview.
If your teen is specifically getting ready for college, preparing them for the next chapter of their lives should become a top priority. Before they leave, some of the best things they can do are to communicate with their roommates and learn their move-in schedule. You can also help them to pack with a long-term move in mind. Tell them to think about how long they’ll be away, what the weather will be like, and what types of things they’ll need on a daily basis. Guiding them through “simple” tasks like these now can help them do it on their own later.
While many people connect street smarts and common sense, there are still some life skills that need to be learned. As a parent, taking the time to teach your teenager how to move through life with street smarts can help them succeed. They will have confidence and security in their own knowledge concerning how to do things.